As many of you know, I work in a large, academic medical center. Like many jobs, my job has challenges and stress. In addition to “normal” work stress, I routinely encounter patients that are suffering. I often step onto the elevator with a small child that has cancer, or encounter an adult patient in the hall that is enduring physical and mental anguish. I see family members and friends that feel powerless to help their loved ones. I work with health care providers that are burned out by the suffering that they see daily.
I know that I do not have the power to "fix" these situations, but the sadness and heartache still weigh on me. Over the past 9 years working in this environment, I have found one thing that helps lighten the burden on my most difficult days. While this remedy is not a cure all, it is one of the best prescriptions for hopelessness and sadness. The solutions is LAUGHTER.
I know it sounds silly, but laughter has rescued me from sadness. Laughter has relieved stress and calmed my anger. Laughter with friends that I love has healed brokenness within me.
I have a group of coworkers and friends that I routinely chat with and eat lunch with. While many of our discussions revolve around work issues, our talks also dissolve into silly stories, jokes and laughter. I can't tell you how many times we have ended up discussing crazy topics such as: my visit to the International Cryptozoology Museum (you can learn so much about Bigfoot and Nessie), what is housed in Area 51, and we have all enjoyed the thought that the CIA may be spying on our conversations through our cell phone. These discussions have no purpose – they do not solve difficult social issues, and they do not debate the political hot topics of the day. But each time I leave a lunch date or a chat with a friend, I feel lighter and have a little more energy to face the next crisis that comes my way.
Laughter as medicine is not a new idea. The Mayo Clinic has an article on the importance of laughter for stress relief. There is scientific research, which you can read about with a simple google search.
Proverbs14:13 says "Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief." I think this sums up my experience with laughter. The ache and the sadness may remain, but the laughter lightens my burdens for a short time. I encourage you to find someone to share a laugh with today.